Be Brave. Be Water. Be Ready: Three Days Among The Freedom Protesters In Hong Kong By Ben Domenech for The Federalist
When a fourth of your population demands something, there is a serious consequence when nothing happens — when millions of law-abiding people feel their autonomy is at risk.
On a gray, humid day in June, a 35-year-old man named Marco Leung climbed atop a platform on elevated scaffolding outside the ritzy complex known as Pacific Place in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, and announced he was tired of being ignored. He wore a bright yellow raincoat festooned with slogans — in the days to come, Hong Kong protesters would brand him “Raincoat Man” — and he unfurled a lengthy sign saying in English and Chinese: “No extradition to China, total withdrawal of the extradition bill, we are not rioters, release the students and injured, Carrie Lam step down, help Hong Kong.”
In the hours to come, police and firefighters would swarm the area. Negotiators attempted to convince him to come down, but he refused. Firefighters ended up confronting Leung, who, after climbing away from them outside the railings, fell about 60 feet to his death, missing an inflated police cushion. It was branded a suicide, the first of eight since the Hong Kong protests began, though the macabre footage doesn’t really bear that out.
Leung was no radical, at least until recently. He had previously indicated support of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, an establishment group, and backed establishment candidates on social media as recently as 2016. He backed Wong Kwok-hing, among others, who lost his seat to the more aggressively pro-democracy Roy Kwong — a Democracy Party legislator who was at Leung’s protest that day, urging him to come down safely. The police declined to let Kwong participate — so he crossed the road and used a loudspeaker instead, ultimately to no avail.
After his death, Leung’s parents spoke out through a friend, urging on the young people of Hong Kong. “Every brave citizen who takes to the street is doing so because they love Hong Kong deeply. Only by protecting themselves and staying alive can young people continue to speak up bravely against social injustices.”
The location Leung chose indicates the way the Hong Kong protesters cut across lines of culture and class. While a “V for Vendetta” slogan is spray-painted a stone’s throw from where he hit the ground — “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people” — this is no class uprising. It is instead a broad cross-section of Hong Kong’s 7 million citizens who are joining in: blue and white collar, those of wealth and middle class, sons and daughters delaying their college education to join in.